Joal Hall Broun | Candidate Questionnaires - Orange County | Indy Week
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Joal Hall Broun 

Chapel Hill/Carrboro School Board

Name as it appears on the ballot: Joal Hall Broun
Party affiliation, if any: Democrat
Campaign website:
Occupation & employer: N.C. Department of the Secretary of State
Years lived in Chapel Hill/Carrboro: 23 years

1) Given the current direction of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Board of Education, would you say things are generally on the right course? If not, what specific, major changes you will advocate if elected?

I think the School Board needs to intensify its efforts in eliminating the achievement gap, eliminating disparate discipline treatment of students of color, and not accept that as the current situation. For the last twenty years, the District has embarked on using several campaigns or policies to eliminate the achievement gap. The techniques that successfully eliminate the gap also retain the achievements of current successful learners while moving toward eliminating the achievement gap. The methods of instruction remain the same, engaged teachers, high expectations, and equitable and fair discipline.

What has derailed that effort has been a lack of sustained and consistent implementation of those instructional methods and the support of those instructional methods. In order to change the current circumstances, this District needs to make it a priority to ensure that all students, no matter their learning circumstances, leave the District with an education that enables them to be full participants and citizens in their respective communities. It is imperative that we educate all of our children or we will not be able to sustain the democracy in which we live.
The District has a long term capital improvements plan that is underfunded to the tune of approximately ninety-five million dollars. In order to successfully ameliorate the renovation and repair needs of the older schools, the Board needs to:

1. Dedicate a percentage of the annual operating expenses to a dedicated fund to maintain the schools over a period of time where the safety and health concerns are addressed first.
2. Then there needs to be a set aside for an ongoing maintenance fund that keeps the system from having to expend huge outlays of funds after not maintaining schools over a long period of time. There needs to be a schedule that is unchanged except for emergencies for those maintenance repairs that could cost the community increased expenditures if we do not repair them. This would reduce costs in the long term.

2) Please identify the three most pressing issues the school system faces and how you will address them.

1. Achievement Gap
2. Teacher Retention
3. Facilities Maintenance
To eliminate the achievement gap has been an ongoing problem in the District. At various times, the Board has implemented policies that would begin to eliminate the gap, and then withdraw funding support and policy development for those programs. There is this undercurrent of more remediation instead of placing resources in place to sure that the gap does not occur.
The Board needs to maintain those programs that have proven effective to eliminate the achievement gap which contain:
a. The support of the development of those teachers who exhibit excellent teaching skills;
b. Expectation from the start that all students can excel; and
c. Excellent relationships with their students.
For teacher retention, I would first treat all teachers as professionals. I would advocate for those policies that would encourage teachers who seek greater education for techniques and content knowledge by insuring that the education opportunities are actually designed to meet those goals. Additionally, I would advocate for policies that reward those teachers who have had consistent success in achieving student learning growth and reducing the achievement gap of student achievement and learning. Finally, I would advocate for increased compensation.
For the facilities maintenance needs, I would advocate for the retention of the same rating system the Board used to determine its priorities for the maintenance and repair of the ten oldest schools. For the remaining schools, I would advocate for a similar process that would use the same rating system used for the older schools in order to prioritize those maintenance and repair needs of those schools. I am a strong supporter of the proposed bonds scheduled to be voted on by the commissioners. Any additional construction to existing schools should remediate the current problems and provide additional capacity for the District. This delays the necessity of building new schools. Additionally, I think the Board needs to determine if we can devise a way to standardize the use of the same type of materials when the District builds the next additional schools to reduce future maintenance costs.

3) What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective as a member of the Board of Education? If you’ve identified specific issues above, what in your record has prepared you to be an effective advocate for them?

My prior public service has prepared me to be an effective advocate for the schools. My first advocacy for the schools came as a member of the Carrboro Board of Alderman from 1999 to 2011. On that Board, I voted to approve the permit for both Morris Grove Elementary School and Carrboro High School. During both those processes, I advocated for a smooth permitting process so that the schools were opened on time and no Town process delayed the construction or opening of the schools. I supported the School District’s and the Town’s collaboration with the development of the Smith Middle School soccer fields. Finally, I supported the Schools Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance that directly ties residential development with student school seats.
I served on the OWASA board for six and one half years. During that time, I gained experience in the areas of capital improvement long range planning and construction to meet the water and sewage disposal needs of southern Orange County. When I served on the Carrboro Board of Alderman, I spearheaded the successful development of a more definite and realistic capital improvement plan. This change lead to the purchase of additional park lands and the eventual planning and construction of the town’s second fire station.

4) Please give one specific example of something you think the Board of Education has done wrong or that you would have rather done differently in the last year. Also, please tell us the single best thing the town has done during that span.

The lack of a more substantial reduction in the disparate discipline of students of color. The District implemented PBIS to reduce the discipline disparity, but I think the Board did not track it as closely as possible. Disparate discipline has a detrimental effect on the person disciplined and the other students in the school. This type of discipline has an effect on the students’ of color enthusiasm for school, and leaves a false impression of other students.

5) How do you identify yourself to others in terms of your political philosophy? For example, do you tell people you’re a conservative, a moderate, a progressive, a libertarian?


6) The INDY’s mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. If elected, how will your service in office help further that goal?

The District must commit itself to having a more inviting environment from the top to the bottom. I think the District should have more open houses for parents of children who have learning disabilities and those groups that do not currently feel comfortable in the education setting. I would encourage Lincoln Center administrators or staff who have responsibilities over the areas of exceptional children, 504/IEP, and counseling to have greater interaction with parents or provide information that is accessible and understandable to parents.

Please address, in detail, the following major issues in Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools:

7) While North Carolina lawmakers have approved some modest raises for teachers in recent years, teacher pay continues to lag behind most states in the country. What would you do as a local school board member to offer incentives for high-quality teachers to remain in the school system? Please offer specifics.

1. You have to create an incentive program either of funds or non-payment benefits, such as greater maternity and paternity leave; and
2. You have to create environments where the high achieving teachers want to stay; those environments provide the greatest professional development, provide the teacher with some level of autonomy, and provide measurable incentives to improve their teaching techniques.

8) Where do you stand on the ongoing debate over the Common Core curriculum in North Carolina? If you would support doing away with Common Core, please explain what you would substitute.

North Carolina adopted the Common Core standards in 2010. Then in 2014, the state repealed the Common Core and the Academic Standards Review Commission will be reviewing the standards. I supported the development of a comprehensive standard for math and English because those two subjects are the backbone of all learning. It is critical that there be some standards of learning in those two subjects so that graduates of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school district can enroll and successfully complete any additional training or education needed to support themselves in the twenty-first century.

9) Orange County is expected to consider a $125 million bond referendum next year with the stated goal of paying for infrastructure improvements for local schools. Many school officials say that spending amounts to less than half the total needed for aging school facilities. Considering budget constraints, what kind of innovations can you offer as a school board member to help manage these costs?

Every renovation and repair needs to be tied to an increase in capacity for the existing schools. Such a plan would delay the building of new schools. This would provide a reduction in costs and those savings could be allocated to other critical infrastructure needs.

10) Racial academic disparities are a perennial problem in every school system. Please provide fresh ideas you have for addressing this long-running problem.

The fresh idea is to actually devote the resources and implement the policies that actually reduce the achievement gap. There is no magic solution other than hard work on the part of the entire District, from the Board, the administrative staff, principals, teachers, students, businesses, and the entire Chapel Hill-Carrboro community. It means practicing the Golden Rule, treating students how you would want your child to be treated.

That means delivering the services that make children successful learners. It means that the District must allocate resources to early and sustained intervention until the child achieves at grade level or above.

11) Schools in the 21st century face the task of educating an increasingly diverse student population. What about your background has prepared you to lead a 21st-century school system, knowing the unique challenges students from different backgrounds face in the schools?

First, I come from a diverse family. My husband is Jewish, born in Chicago, and raised in the South. Our children are biracial and we have exposed them to each side of our heritages, Christian, Jewish, and African-American. My father was in the Air Force. The first six years of my life, we lived on integrated military bases. All my life, I went to integrated schools. I live in a diverse neighborhood, with both young and old people.

As an assistant public defender, I worked with people with very diverse backgrounds. I represented people who were indigent and could not afford an attorney. What I learned from them that there is a direct correlation between success in school and a person’s future, especially in the criminal justice system. During my previous public service, I worked hard to include everyone in the decision making process and worked hard to obtain and listen to multiple points of views.

12) If there are other issues you want to discuss, please do so here.

Every readily available resource should be applied to insure that all students achieve to their highest potential. I think the District needs to have the culture of being more receptive and accessible to all children, no matter their race, learning challenges, or socioeconomic status. If the District is truly going to be one of the best school districts in the United States, it needs to be the best school district for everyone. We, as a community of people who devote a lot of resources to the District as a whole, need to do more than acknowledge the achievement gap for children of color, but to do the tough work of eliminating the achievement gap. We do our entire community a great disservice if we do not. We then create a community that espouses achievement for everyone, but fails to actually do the work so that achievement occur. Without an educated population, the community, the State, and the nation will not be able to compete in an increasingly competitive global economy and will not be able to sustain the democracy we hold so dear.

More by Reed Benjamin


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